In the Loop

In the Loop is one of those hilarious political satires that almost no one will see. It’s too bad; there aren’t many movies that use foul language to such great comic effect. I love a movie that can put out a great line like, “Climb the mountain of conflict? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews,” and have it be number 114 on the list of the best lines of the movie. The problem is that the 113 lines from In the Loop that are funnier are so replete with “F***”, “s**t”, and “lubricated horse c**k,” that I had to go way down the list to find one that could be written without **** in this review. This movie is one of the most foul-mouthed that I can remember. It’s also incredibly funny and, if you’re a tree-hugging liberal, it throws in a little anti-war satire to boot. Just remember turn on the subtitles, you’ll thank me later.

The President of the U.S. and the Prime Minister of Great Britain want to get their war on. The war is not named but is so clearly Iraq it doesn’t make much sense that they don’t just say its outright. One British cabinet minister, Simon Foster (Pirates of the Caribbean 2 bad guy Tom Hollander), accidently makes a comment that sounds like war isn’t inevitable and immediately ends up on the shite list of the PM’s chief fixer, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). As Malcolm notes, he’s not into killing; he prefers maiming psychologically.

Malcom and Simon, along with mid-level U.S. Government officials like Undersecretary Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy), Assistant Secretary of State Linton Barwick (David Rasche), and Lt. General George Miller (James Gandolfini), along with their various assistants and advisors, then spend the rest of the movie working for or against getting the U.S. and U.K. into war. Actually, that seems to be their secondary goal. Primarily, they live for insulting each other using the most creative and offensive terms possible.

Director and co-writer Armando Iannucci has created In the Loop as a sorta spin-off from a BBC show I haven’t seen called The Thick of It. Having seen The Thick of It is not a pre-requisite for watching this film, but you do have to enjoy verbal sparring and be able to understand British subjects spitting out rapid-fire insults in sometimes heavy accents. That’s where the subtitles come in. Turning them on increases your enjoyment of this film by a factor of 10. It allows you to actually understand half the insults and other witticisms and is probably why this is a better DVD than a theatrical release. You also have to be used to the old hand-held, documentary-style look. Something that is starting to get worn out and should be suspended unless they make another Bourne sequel. Unless you are shooting a documentary, make your movie look like a movie, dammit.

The movie is, of course, a satire on the Bush-Blair run up to war, but it doesn’t exactly break new ground. The hawks are sneaky and bad, the doves are flawed but mostly good. If you aren’t sure what happens, try to remember if we invaded Iraq or not. We know the ending, but the getting there is a lot funnier in this movie than it was in real life. Also, Iannucci doesn’t go easy and make everyone a bunch of dummies. They actually come across like real people, some underhanded or cowardly, but most intelligent and trying to do what they were hired to do without getting fired.

This movie, literally, has some of the best lines of anything released last year. It’s a nice antidote to heavier war offerings, like The Hurt Locker. You’ll want to hire Malcolm to turn up at the next meeting with your boss. If it weren’t for one saving grace (well, two if you count the movie itself), this DVD would be pretty lame. The extras are very thin and don’t include a legitimate making-of featurette or a commentary. That’s just pathetic, fellas. You’ve got a great movie here and one good extra. Let’s pad this DVD up a bit and try to get some people to see it.

The best of the extras is a truly mother-loadish amount of deleted scenes. There are nearly 30 minutes of unused gems that were obviously cut to keep the running time at a reasonable 106 minutes. They are just as funny, sharp, and profane as the stuff in the movie. While there is no real context for the scenes, it’s almost like watching extras for The Office -- the material is so good, it stands on its own. Reportedly, the first cut of this movie was four and a half hours. I’d actually like to see the rest of the material.

Once you get past that item, the rest of it is weak. There is a trailer and a television spot (which is really just another trailer, when you think about it.) The trailers are actually funny and, unlike with most movies where watching the trailer after watching the movie seems like a waste, these are clever on their own. Really, though, it’s just two trailers. As Nero said in History of the World, Part I, “Nice, not thrilling, but nice.”

The final item is billed as a “making of,” but it’s not long enough to be much use. It lasts less than three minutes and features a few scenes and a couple of talking heads from the actors and the director giving basic plot info. It was something that must have been designed to play during a quick break on a cable channel or something. It’s just not substantial. Malcolm Tucker would rip it to shreds.

The movie itself and the deleted scenes are the sum total of benefit here, but it’s enough to recommend picking this up. The hand-held documentary style and the ability to turn on subtitles make this a real DVD-friendly release. It’s almost like a BBC program with an extra helping of profanity.